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Campus politics: Assault by IJT at PU

Campus politics
March 18, 2008: There is nothing good or bad about student politics; only the way it is practised makes it so. If it is a battle of ideas, lost and won in democratic debates and elections for student unions, it is second only to national politics. But if it degenerates into a no-holds-barred, must-win contest in which using force and shedding blood are not undesirable then it better be shunned. One of the reasons why student unions were banned in the 1980s was the relentless violence they led to on campus. But the ban failed to pay off because it was applied selectively against student organisations that the Zia regime deemed were opposed to its dictatorial rule. Some others, though well known for their tendency to carry the stick and wield the gun at the slightest provocation, were left more or less untouched. One of them, the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba, has been a thorn in the side of all those who want to either weed out student politics altogether from Punjab University or make it a level playing field for all players. That the Jamiat has seldom shied away from using force to protect its monopolistic hold over the university is well documented. But last Thursday there emerged yet more evidence of how jealously the organisation guards what it sees as its home turf. Three students were severely beaten up while they were distributing fliers supporting the restoration of sacked judges. Though the Jamiat denies having a hand in the incident it insists that running movements cannot be left to individuals, thereby implying that in their presence no student can be allowed to do anything remotely called politics. Only a few months earlier the Jamiat was accused of torturing Imran Khan for what it calls 'doing politics on campus'.

All this raises an obvious question: if campuses are off-limits to politics, what is the Jamiat doing there? After having failed to cleanse the campuses of all politics, the authorities may do well by allowing student politics by all - individuals as well as groups. A playing field open to everyone is certainly more desirable than the one dominated by a few violent leviathans. Dawn

Assault on PhD students by IJT: Students denounce Punjab University's delayed response
Lahore: Students of the Punjab University (PU) on Monday denounced the university administration for not punishing activists of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) for beating three PhD students in front of PU Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Mujahid Kamran.

Application submitted: The students said that they had named the activists in their application and had also provided video clips identifying the perpetrators to the university administration. They alleged that some elements on the inquiry committee were protecting the perpetrators and were also responsible for allowing IJT activists to illegally reside in the PU hostels.

PU spokesman Dr Mujahid Ali Mansoori said that the university would conduct a disciplinary committee meeting on Tuesday (today) to take action against the perpetrators. Several IJT activists beat up three PhD students on Friday. The victims were members of the Students Action Committee (SAC) and had been distributing flyers in favour of the judiciary.

Before physically assaulting the PhD students, the IJT activists had said that the students were Shias and wanted to create trouble on campus. These slogans attracted several other activists and they beat up the PhD students. It turned out that the PhD students were not Shias and that the IJT activists used the 'Shia card to rouse the other activists. There is a tussle between the IJT and Shia students over a prayer site.

The VC, Registrar Dr Naeem Ahmed Khan, Chairman Hall Council Dr Saeed Ahmed Nagra and several security personnel witnessed the assault, but nobody stopped the IJT activists. Many SAC members protested against the assault in front of the Lahore Press Club and shouted slogans against IJT hooliganism on campus.

The VC formed an inquiry committee after the incident, but no decision has been made yet.

Amir Jalal, an SAC member and one of the victims (of the School of Biological Sciences), said "We submitted an application to the administration and also provided video clips showing what happened. It is up to the administration to make a decision. We have named six IJT activists including Usman Ashraf and Abdullah Leghari of the Geology Department, Hafiz Farhat of the Hailey College of Commerce, Sultan Mehmood Zangi of the Centre for High Energy Physics, Attiqur Rehman Bhatti and Usman Ghuman of the Institute of Education and Research (IER) and the Pakistan IJT nazim's brother, who runs the university's IJT office. We also mentioned eight unidentified IJT activists in our application."

Rafiullah of the Physics Department said that the SAC members were protesting for the restoration of the judiciary and that it was for the second time that the IJT activists beat the committee members for distributing flyers favouring the judiciary.

He said that the IJT had a 40-year-history of hooliganism at Punjab University and that now students were protesting against their highhandedness. "Students feel the time is right for a change and that they can break the IJT's hold on campus. The IJT has realised this and is using force to stop the students," he added.

Ahsan, a student, alleged that the university administration was not taking action against the IJT. He said that the VC and other senior officials witnessed the assault. He also said that the VC immediately suspended Estate Officer Saleem Akhtar for not being able to handle the situation. "Why can't he do the same with the IJT activists?" he asked.

He alleged that IJT activists lived illegally in the PU hostels and that the Hall Council chairman provided them shelter. "How can the chairman take action against the perpetrators whom he shelters?" he asked. He alleged that there were elements amongst the VC's advisers who supported the IJT and this was why the IJT activists beat up the PhD students.

Distributing flyers again on Friday: Haleema, an SAC media official, said the perpetrators lived illegally in the hostels. She said that the SAC members would again distribute flyers on campus on Friday.

Dr Mansoori, the PU spokesman, said, "We received the complaint and will meet on Tuesday to discuss the episode. We will punish those involved in the assault in the next few days."

PU IJT Nazim Rana Zahid said the SAC had named senior IJT members not involved in the incident. "They have named members who were trying to stop the fight," he alleged.

He said that he denounced the incident and that it had taken place because of a few junior IJT members. He said, "Beating up students is not part of our policy, as it was in the past."

Separately, Imamia Students Organisation (PU) President Muhammad Yaqoob denounced the IJT for rousing its workers by misusing religion to create hysteria. He said, "Shias are peaceful and don't approve of elements using their name to incite violence." Daily Times
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